Monte Carlo Or Bust For Drivers

Classic car drivers are revving their engines as they prepare to leave Scotland for a 1,600-mile rally to Monaco.

Dozens of cars including Lancias, Triumphs and Porsches will set off from Paisley town centre tonight as part of the 104th Monte Carlo Classic Rally.

It was first held in 1911 with drivers across Europe starting in different cities of roughly equal distance from Monte Carlo.

As well as Paisley, cars will be leaving from Barcelona, Turin, Copenhagen and Reims this year.

Thousands of people are expected to gather to wave off the competitors and some of the drivers met at the former Rootes motoring factory in Linwood yesterday to discuss their final preparations.

Ranald White is taking part in the rally for the first time in his rare light blue 1964 Rover 2000.

The 58-year-old electrician has always wanted to do the rally and is taking time off work to compete.

He said: "The car should be able to do the job, if we run into problems then unfortunately that could be it.

"Some crews will have a whole back-up team but me and my navigator need to pack everything that we think we might need into the car and hope we don't run out of fuel in the middle of the night somewhere.

"But it's a regulatory rally, meaning it's based on an average speed of 50kmh (31mph), so that should suit us.

"It's the first time I've taken part, I did follow the rally a couple of years ago but ever since I was a child I wanted to do something like this but always thought it would be out of my reach with a special international driving licence and loads of experience, but you don't need those things - all you need is a really thick wallet and you can give it a go.''

The cars travelling all the way to Monte Carlo will head for Dover, then travel across the French Alps if all goes to plan, reaching their final destination at the end of next week.

Stewart Hutton was also in the Renfrewshire town yesterday with his 1965 Austin 1800 and hopes to complete the rally this time.

He said: "I had one of these cars when I was a young boy but this particular one was imported from Australia.

"It rallied there and competed at Brooklands in the UK, and it came on the market about a year or so ago.

"We've done lots of work on it and it's running like a Swiss watch. We're really looking forward to the start.

"This is our second Monte. We were disqualified outside Valence last year because we missed one of the time trials, but that just makes us more determined to complete it this time.''

Rally co-ordinator Douglas Anderson is looking forward to getting on the road.

He said: "It's a great event and a great atmosphere, it's a carnival of classic cars.

"I've been taking part most years and I'm setting off tomorrow in an Austin Healey Sprite, a small car with a tiny engine, so it'll be very slow but we can enjoy the route.

"It's started in Paisley for a couple of years now and it's a great connection between the motor industry in Scotland and rallying because many of the Imps built here rallied in the 60s, and some continue even to this day.''

The rally was created by Prince Albert I in an attempt to bring wealthy car owners to the famous casinos of the French Riviera.

The first race was won by Frenchman Henri Rougier in a 25 horsepower Turcat-Mery.

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